A University of Kansas School of Engineering assistant professor landed a statewide award for leading innovative research with a focus on real-world design and sustainable methods for powering vehicles.
Chris Depcik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will receive the Rising Star Award in April from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE). The award recognizes individuals who are new to the conservation and environmental education field in Kansas but are already making an impact.
Upon joining the mechanical engineering faculty at KU in 2008, Depcik started the KU EcoHawks program, which builds upon his enthusiasm for cars and challenges KU students to engineer sustainably.
“The majority of the credit should go to the students that have been part of the EcoHawks over the years. I just get behind them and give them a push," Depcik said. "Sometimes it’s a little push, and sometimes it’s a lot, but in reality, they’re the ones who’ve done all the work and done great things. The award is just as much for them as it for me."
EcoHawks projects include recycling a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle into a model of energy efficiency by converting it to a plug-in series hybrid that runs on 100 percent biodiesel, as well as designing and developing two parallel hybrid go-karts, one of which was recently donated to Lawrence High School for further study. The work of the EcoHawks also ties in with KU’s Feedstock to Tailpipe Initiative, which creates a multidisciplinary research team to explore the viability of alternative liquid fuels to power the country’s transportation system.
Depcik said the award also helps shine a spotlight on the depth and quality of the research into green technologies under way at the KU School of Engineering.
“A lot of people might not have a full picture of all the work we’re doing at KU in terms of sustainability, energy and the environment, so anything that gets the word out is a great help,” Depcik said. “This calls attention to the success of our current students and provides a valuable showcase of our work to the next generation of potential Jayhawk engineers.”
Depcik will receive the Rising Star award at a recognition ceremony April 5 in Topeka. For a full list of all the KACEE award winners and for more on the organization, visit its
Learn more about KU EcoHawks